United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
N. Stivers, United States District Court Chief Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motions to
Dismiss (DN 14, 18) and Defendants' Motion to Seal (DN
16). The motions are ripe for adjudication. For the reasons
outlined below, Defendants' Motion to Seal is GRANTED,
and Defendants' Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED IN PART
and DENIED IN PART.
STATEMENT OF FACTS AND CLAIMS
alleged events giving rise to this action began when
Plaintiff Salisa Luster Harrison (“Harrison”)
failed to show up to work on April 29, 2008. (Compl.
¶¶ 2, 35, DN 1). Harrison's unexplained absence
was uncharacteristic, and her coworkers grew concerned,
prompting efforts to contact her. (Compl. ¶ 35). Unable
to reach her by phone, Harrison's coworkers went to her
apartment where they saw her car, but their repeated knocks
on Harrison's door and windows went unheeded. (Compl.
¶ 35). Their inability to contact Harrison prompted the
coworkers to call 911 to request an emergency welfare check.
(Compl. ¶ 36). LMPD Dispatch received the coworkers'
first call at approximately 11:12 AM on April 29, 2008.
(Compl. ¶ 36).
Richard Woolridge (“Woolridge”) was an LMPD
police officer at the time and responded to the coworkers'
call, arriving at Harrison's apartment at approximately
11:27 AM. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 37). The coworkers
expressed their concerns, and Woolridge entered
Harrison's apartment. (Compl. ¶ 37). Woolridge did
not, however, allow Harrison's coworkers to follow him
in, and he shut the front door behind him upon entry. (Compl.
¶ 37). Woolridge stayed in Harrison's apartment for
around ten minutes. (Compl. ¶ 38). When he exited,
Woolridge informed Harrison's coworkers that he had
spoken with Harrison, that she had been crying because of a
fight with her boyfriend, and that he had confirmed this with
the boyfriend. (Compl. ¶ 38). The LMPD closed the matter
at approximately 11:36 AM. (Compl. ¶ 39).
coworkers placed a second call to the police at 11:45 AM.
(Compl. ¶ 45). While waiting for an officer to arrive,
the coworkers went to the building manager in an attempt to
gain access to Harrison's apartment. (Compl. ¶ 45).
Before the police arrived, the coworkers were able to enter
Harrison's apartment and found the apartment in a state
of disarray, apparently ransacked. (Compl. ¶ 45).
Harrison was in her apartment, incoherent and unable to leave
the couch, wearing blood-stained clothing, with facial
bruising and blood in her eyes. (Compl. ¶ 46). Harrison
was also exhibiting respiratory distress and was transported
to the University of Louisville Hospital for treatment,
including brain surgery. (Compl. ¶¶ 47-48). The
hospital also photographed Harrison's injuries and
facilitated a rape kit. (Compl. ¶ 48).
Tucker (“Tucker”) was employed as a detective for
the LMPD and initiated a criminal investigation that day.
(Compl. ¶¶ 3, 15, 49-50). According to Harrison,
Tucker ignored crucial evidence in her apartment, including:
failing to gather fingerprints; failing to recover, collect,
and process a knife found in Harrison's bathroom; failing
to interview apartment staff or any other contemporaneous
witnesses; failing to collect DNA evidence; and failing to
conduct any follow-up regarding the identity of the alleged
boyfriend to whom Woolridge claimed to have spoken. (Compl.
filed an incident report the following day. (Compl. ¶
54). In that report, Tucker indicated he interviewed
Harrison's coworkers at the hospital, a fact she claims
is willfully untrue. (Compl. ¶ 54). Harrison alleges
Tucker subsequently worked to ensure physical evidence went
untested, and Woolridge, Tucker, and other Defendants
conspired to have Harrison's rape kit removed from
Kentucky's testing lab and placed instead into the rape
kit backlog. (Compl. ¶ 55). Furthering the conspiracy,
Woolridge, Tucker, and other Defendants falsely told Harrison
and the prosecutor's office that the rape kit had been
tested but returned a negative result. (Compl. ¶ 57).
alleges that on or about April 13, 2009, the LMPD closed her
criminal case, but Harrison and her mother directed questions
to LMPD Chief Robert C. White (“White”)
requesting information on the investigation and seeking to
provide additional assistance to the police. (Compl.
¶¶ 58-59, 61). Harrison informed LMPD officials,
including White, that she wished to lodge a complaint against
Woolridge for willful abdication of his duties. (Compl.
¶ 62). Harrison later learned White had allowed
Woolridge to take early retirement, so that filing a
complaint against him would be futile. (Compl. ¶ 62).
Harrison alleges she informed White and others of her wish to
file a complaint long before Woolridge's retirement and
alleges White conspired with other Defendants to conceal
incriminating facts about Woolridge for over ten years.
(Compl. ¶ 63).
claims she sought information about the attack and
Woolridge's background from the LMPD via FOIA
requests. (Compl. ¶ 64). Harrison contends
these requests were met with fraudulent concealment by LMPD
officials Carey Klain (“Klain”) and Dee Allen
(“Allen”). (Compl. ¶¶ 18, 19, 64).
Specifically, Klain and Allen informed Harrison that such
materials did not exist, which Harrison claims is false and a
violation of the Kentucky Open Records Act and LMPD policy.
(Compl. ¶ 64). In 2012, Harrison and her mother reached
out to White's successor, Steve Conrad
(“Conrad”), asking him to use his authority to
reopen the investigation of Harrison's attack. (Compl.
¶ 65). Conrad did not reopen the investigation, and
Harrison alleges she continued making open records requests
that were met with incomplete information. (Compl. ¶
2015, a highly-publicized statewide audit revealed that
Kentucky had a significant backlog of untested rape kits.
(Compl. ¶ 66). Harrison contends the publicity
surrounding the audit alerted Defendants to the fact that
Harrison's rape kit would eventually be found among the
other untested rape kits. (Compl. ¶ 66). Defendants were
thus prompted to reopen the investigation into Harrison's
attack without contacting her, despite refusing her numerous
prior requests. (Compl. ¶ 66). Harrison alleges this
fact shows the existence of an institutional conspiracy
within the LMPD. (Compl. ¶ 66).
further alleges that Special Victims Unit Coordinator Carolyn
Nunn (“Nunn”) falsely claimed Harrison's rape
kit was being retested because of advancements in technology,
and it had been fully tested in 2008-09. (Compl. ¶ 68).
Harrison claims that Nunn told the Kentucky State Police that
her rape kit had fallen through the cracks in a No. of areas.
(Compl. ¶ 69). Nunn also instructed other police
officers not to share information with Harrison or her
mother. (Compl. ¶ 69). Additionally, Harrison asserts
that in January 2016, David Ray (“Ray”) refused
to test her rape kit in furtherance of the alleged
conspiracy, with the hope that her attacker would not be
identified. (Compl. ¶¶ 21, 70).
in 2016, Nunn was replaced by David Allen
(“Allen”), who became Harrison's liaison with
LMPD. (Compl. ¶¶ 23, 71). In November 2016, Whitney
Collins (“Collins”), a supervisor with the
Kentucky State Police laboratory, wrote to Allen seeking
written authorization to retest Harrison's rape kit
because the testing would fully consume the physical
evidence. (Compl. ¶ 72). Harrison claims that a week
after Collins wrote to Allen, Allen knowingly misrepresented
to her he was still waiting on communications from the
laboratory. (Compl. ¶ 73). Subsequently, Allen told
Harrison that LMPD had received the communications from
Kentucky State Police, that there was only enough physical
evidence left for one final test, and that they were awaiting
authorization for that test. (Compl. ¶ 73). On December
28, 2016, Allen wrote to Harrison, informing her that the
test had occurred but did not reveal new information, but
Harrison alleges the rape kit was not actually tested.
(Compl. ¶¶ 75-76).
now asserts three counts against Defendants concerning their
handling of the initial response to the crime and subsequent
investigation. (Compl. ¶¶ 80-105). Count I alleges
Defendants denied Harrison access to the courts in violation
of her rights under the First Amendment. (Compl. ¶¶
80-89). Count II alleges that Defendants denied Harrison the
equal protection of the laws by treating her differently on
the basis of her status as an African American. (Compl.
¶¶ 90-96). Count III alleges civil conspiracy in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985. (Compl. ¶¶
Court has original jurisdiction over this matter under 28
U.S.C. § 1331.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,
” and is subject to dismissal if it “fail[s] to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6). When
considering a motion to dismiss, courts must presume all
factual allegations in the complaint to be true and make all
reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross
& Blue Shield,552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008)
(citation omitted). “But the district court need not
accept a bare assertion of legal conclusions.”
Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d
478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “A
pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of ...